I attended a Disney Character Look-Alike/Parade Performer audition in Nashville. The audition was at 9am, and my friends and I arrived an hour early. The lobby of the dance studio was already packed with 200 young men and women exciting chattering about all things Disney.
The two choreographers asked everyone to stand in line in the main studio. I noticed more than half of the girls there had their hair in a tight bun and were styling a leotard and ballet shoes. For a second, I thought my friends and I accidentally walked into a hardcore Disney dance audition. I turned to the girl behind me:
“Are you a dancer?” I asked.
“Yes!” She squealed with a smile. “I’ve been dancing my whole life!!”
Oh boy… I’m in trouble.
From the moment everyone walked in, the choreographers watched us to see if we interacted with each other, stood with (or without) confidence, and had “the Disney look.” Within three seconds, the choreographers could tell if an individual exuded confidence, joy, and spirit.
After standing in line for almost 45 minutes, my friends and I made it to the registration table where each person wrote down his or her name and e-mail address. The choreographers gave us all an audition number and measured everyone’s height. I stood as straight as I could to at least make it to 5 feet (#shortpeopleproblems).
When the last individual signed in, they told us what we were to expect for the day:
“Channel your inner child,” The choreographers advised us. I tied my hair in low-pigtails. It was game time.
FIRST ROUND: All 200 individuals learned a basic step routine (grapevine with some claps and some jazz hands) and after practicing the routine a few times, they split us up (randomly) into two massive groups. I was in the first group and after we danced 4 people at a time, the choreographers lead us into another room where we waited while the second group auditioned.
When both groups finished the first round of the audition, the choreographers called everyone back in to the main studio to announce the numbers of those who were asked to stay and continue to the next round.
“31” The choreographer announced.
My heart skipped a beat. That was me.
When all the numbers were called, I heard the huffs and puffs of frustrated girls who had auditioned five times to be a Disney princess. I watched young men sob uncontrollably, devastated they would not be Prince Charming. And there I was in the midst of all this chaos… #31.
The remaining 50 of us, including my best friend, filled out a sheet to write down our shoe size, eye color, hair color, etc. We could attach a headshot or resume if we wanted, but the choreographers took our pictures during that time.
They prepared us for the next round:
“Remember when you entered middle school and all of a sudden you cared about what other people think of you? For the next hour or so, we want you to be a little kid again. Don’t think about what anybody thinks of you. Just be yourself and have a good time.”
SECOND ROUND: We were instructed to be a zoo animal of our choice. I decided to be a beaver. The choreographer laughed as I waddled around the room and built my imaginary beaver dam. I honestly couldn’t tell you what other people around me were doing as I stayed focused on performing to the best of my ability.
I can’t remember if they made cuts after the second round, although I don’t believe so.
THIRD ROUND: We were taught a more complex dance/parade routine with a few turns, spins, and kicks. I was smiling and laughing the entire time. It was a blast learning a Disney parade routine with my best friend. We may have been the worst ones, but we tried our best.
FINAL ROUND: The 50 of us were split up and assigned into groups of 3. We were instructed to dance the choreography then immediately transition into our zoo animal.
So in my case, I did the parade routine – then transitioned into a beaver and waddled around the dance floor/built my beaver dam. We performed the sequence twice for the choreographers while they scored us.
Performing just a 30-second routine, I tried to portray as many characters as I could think of in the moment. For example, in different parts of the routine, I found ways to be as silly as Goofy, as dainty as Snow White, and then as sassy as Tinkerbell.
Those who made it through the audition were handed a card that included the next step which was to apply for the Disney College Program. I thanked the choreographers and left the studio feeling confident and inspired.
The day after the audition, I applied for the Disney College Program (DCP). After DCP approved my application, I was invited to complete a web and phone interview. Here are some tips for the phone interview:
I kept having dreams of receiving a rejection e-mail from Entertainment, as if my subconscious was preparing for the worst-case scenario. I would wake up every morning and immediately check my phone. Nothing. When I finally received an e-mail from Entertainment (about three weeks later), I was waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office. The nurse called me in to take my blood pressure.
“Your pulse is fast… Are you nervous today?” She joked.
“No, I just received some exciting news. That’s all.” I smiled.
Immediately following my doctor’s appointment, I submitted a second application that required a cover letter and resume. The application had to be submitted within 24 hours. The next morning, I received a second e-mail from Entertainment to schedule a phone interview … with a senior casting recruiter at Walt Disney World.
During the 2 weeks, I prepared for my final interview and researched as much as I could about the position.
The next morning, April 10th, I had my phone interview with the senior casting recruiter. It was during my interview when she told me I was offered the job as a Character Performer at Walt Disney World. I move to Orlando in less than a month!!
Every year, thousands of people all over the worlds audition to be a character performer at Walt Disney World. The entire audition and application process was definitely a whirlwind, but also an exciting adventure. I was very touched by the helpfulness and encouragement of current and past Disney Cast Members and Character Performers who were willing to answer all my questions.
For anyone auditioning, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I’m happy to answer questions regarding the audition process. Thanks for reading.